May 06, 2012

The Adventures Of Tintin

Before last year, if you said the word "Tintin" to someone here in the US, it was most likely that you'd get a blank look in reply.  To be sure, there were a few who knew of the stories of the boy journalist, but they're more a European thing.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I was introduced to the Tintin books at the age of three or four, and I taught myself how to read to them.  Just a few steps away from my computer, there are some 16 of the books, terribly worn but well-loved.  Most are the Little-Brown translations, but there are a few of the first Methuen ones mixed in.  It's no exaggeration to say that I owe much of what I am to that small collection of "graphic novels," along with Monty Python's Flying Circus and the works of Robert Heinlein.

Some four years ago, some reports began to leak out of Hollywoodland of a major motion picture treatment of Tintin.  It was to be live action, then it turned into a traditional animation project, until it was announced that WETA Digital had been tabbed to do an all-motion-capture movie instead.  To be honest, I had incredibly mixed feelings about all of it.  On one hand, I've literally waited all my life for a good Tintin motion picture.  On the other hand, I've waited all my life for a Tintin motion picture, and I was afraid that whomever took it on would royally screw it up.  Even reports that Stephen Spielberg was directing did nothing to assuage my trepidation.  Indeed, my fears grew as more and more information came out: it was to be based on the two-book story, The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure... which happens to be my second-favorite of the Tintin stories (Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon have the honor of being my favorite).  There are also elements of The Crab with the Golden Claws mixed in as well.  When the movie was released in December 2011, I discovered that I couldn't bring myself to go see it.  Part of it was that I hate going to the movie theater, what with the talking and the cellphones and so on.  The other part was simple fear.  I knew I'd see it eventually, but I wanted to do it on my terms... and that meant when the DVD came out.  Which it did a couple of months ago.  Last week, I purchased it.  So what did I think?

I need not have worried.  It's a very, very good representation of Herge's work.  In the extras, Spielberg says that when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in France, it was described as a Tintin adventure, and he worked hard to bring that same sort of excitement to this film.  For those who have never heard of Tintin before, it'd be a fun action romp filled with interesting characters.

Captain Haddock and Tintin
For those of us who know the stories, Spielberg took the time to throw in a ton of references while staying mostly true to the original work.  There are bottles of Loch Lomond whiskey rolling around, for example. 

Thompson and Thomson visit Tintin
Sadly, the biggest weakness of the film is the one thing that made it possible: the motion capture technology.  It's gotten good enough that we're in "uncanny valley" territory.  For the most part, the look works, but there are moments, such as the motorcycle chase late in the film, where it just looks wrong.  Thompson and Thomson, the not-twin detectives, are disappointing as well.  While they look very much like their comic-book counterparts, they have a goofy semi-realistic style that doesn't fit with the rest of their mo-cap world.  I don't know that there's anything that could be done about that short of removing them from the story, but there you are.

It's an odd fact that the one character that isn't motion-captured is the most expressive of the cast.  Snowy, Tintin's dog/partner, is 100% animated, yet fits perfectly in the world.  In the original stories, we read his thoughts via word balloons.  In the movie he's not allowed to speak, but you always know what's going on in his mind.  Snowy is a virtuoso performance by WETA, and it really makes the movie work.  If you're a Tintin fan, you owe it to yourself to see The Adventures of Tintin.  If you're not, but you're looking for a good two hour action-filled romp that doesn't require a whole ton of thought and is kid-safe to boot, it's a good film for you.  There is some violence, particularly during the pirate sequence, but no blood or inappropriate language. 

I really enjoyed the movie... more importantly, the five-year old me that learned to read with Tintin is satisfied.

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May 05, 2012

High School Of The Dead Ep07

Last episode, we experienced the quintessential HSotD experience.  If someone came up to me and said "what is HSotD all about," Ep06 is the one I'd show them.  If you remember correctly, and I think you do, The Fellowship had taken refuge in the house of Boing-chan's friend, up-armed themselves, oh and the wimmenfolk took a bath.  At the end of it, however, a barking dog had drawn a horde o' undead to their doorstep.

Meet another J Random Survivor.  We will call him Skippy for the duration of his stay with us.  Skippy is armed with an over-under shotgun, what many might call the perfect zombie-hunting weapon.  These unnamed "many" would be wrong, because over-under shotguns are usually single-shot weapons.  Well, dual-shot as there are two single-shot barrels, but Skippy here, quite wisely I'd think, is using both barrels on his undead targets.  Anyway, Skippy, possessing all the tactical genius of a fly that landed on a copy of Sun Tzu's "Art Of War" once, is running around blasting zombies and making whole metric farktons of noise in the process.  Drawing more undead to him.  Seeing that he has to reload after every shot, this may not be the brightest idea he's ever had.  Eventually, the inevitable occurs: he fumbles a shell.  At this point, near as I can tell, a shotgunner has four options: 1) let it go, man, 'cause it's gone, and shoot one barrel; 2) pull another shell out of your pocket; 3) feets don't fail me now;  4) come to a complete halt, bend down to pick the dropped shell up off the ground, and let the zombies gather around you.  What would you do? 

Since I've named him Skippy, you can guess which choice he made.  But he picked up the hell outta that shell, and a good job it was, too!  It was the best job of picking something up off the ground that you ever did see, going back to when some kid named Arthur pulled a sword outta a random rock somewhere.  Art got a kingdom out of it, though.  Skippy here, well, at least he makes an appearance in this episodic review.  That's gotta count for something!

The death of Skippy is also noted by Hirano, Saeko and Takashi, who are up on the balcony munching popcorn and generally enjoying the show, safely far above the gathering hordes.  Well, not really.  They note that "it's getting worse" out there.  Our Hero is all for going out there and trying to save everybody.  Saeko gently but firmly points out to him that he's a FRIGGIN' MORON.  Not only are they gonna have to deal with the undead hordes, but sooner or later, living people will notice that there's an awful nice safe spot up there and come a-callin'... and they don't have the resources to save them all.  Or even themselves, quite possibly.

Oh yeah.  Forgot about that little detail, didn't you?

more...

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May 04, 2012

"...You Need To WRITE!"

I said that just a couple o' days ago, didn't I?  And here I am, not writing for a couple of days.  Just shows how lucky I really did get.  I've got plenty of things to write about, just not plenty of time, what with the end of the school year coming next week.  Of course, that means lil' ol' Wonderduck is gonna be awful darn busy, but never fear!  There will be HSotD ep07 on Saturday, then something special on Sunday (assuming everything goes smoothly)... and then we're back into the F1 groove on Monday.  But until Saturday, here's this:

That's all.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:16 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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May 02, 2012

GOTCHA!

The USS Phoenix (CL-46) was a Brooklyn-class light cruiser built for the US Navy in 1938.  She was considered a light cruiser because her main armament consisted of 6" guns; 8" rifles were the hallmark of the heavy cruiser.  However, there weren't many ships of any fleet that would want to get within range of a Brooklyn: she carried fifteen Mark 16/47 guns in five triple turrets.  While that armament wouldn't sink a battlewagon, it'd chew the upperworks to pieces. 

The Phoenix had an adventuresome war from the get-go.  She spent nearly the entire time in the Pacific (other than a quick run to Casablanca in 1943, to deliver SecState Cordell Hull to a meeting), and was at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She herself suffered barely any damage throughout the conflict, losing only one man to enemy action (near as I can tell, that is).  When the Surrender was announced, she was heading to the US for a refit.  She then officially joined the Atlantic Fleet just long enough to be transferred to the Reserve Fleet (Philadelphia) in 1946.  Where she sat until 1951, which is when she was sold.

To Argentina, who renamed her ARA 17 de Octubre.  Shortly after the coup that overthrew Juan Peron, the Argentinian Navy gave her the name under which she became famous:

The General Belgrano.  During the Falklands War, on May 2nd, 1982, she was involved in maneuvers against the oncoming fleet of Royal Navy ships.  Thought to be part of a pincer operation with the 25 de Mayo, an ex-RN CVL carrying A-4 Skyhawks, if the Belgrano could close with the thin-skinned RN vessels, there'd be serious butchery at sea.  Modern vessels aren't armored the way they used to be; the Belgrano was built like a bank vault in comparison to the Type 42 destroyers and the various frigates she'd be facing.  She was a serious threat.  And the Brits had a serious way of dealing with her: the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror, which had been shadowing the Belgrano for 36 hours.  Once given the go-ahead, she fired three WWII era torpedoes at the cruiser.

The second hit her forward of "A" turret, carrying away 40 feet or so of her bow.  The third missed altogether, though it carried on and dented an Argentinian frigate (no explosion) some distance away.  The first torpedo hit just behind the side armor plating, penetrated into the hull of the ship, then detonated.  The explosion vented the boiler room to the sea, which began flooding immediately.  It also blew out vertically, destroying two mess halls and a recreational area before taking out a 60 foot chunk of the main deck.

After her remaining crew had abandoned ship, the General Belgrano rolled on her ends, then sunk stern first.  770 crew were later rescued, a nigh-on miraculous feat, considering that her escorts never knew she was in trouble and sailed away.

The Sun's understated headline.
Exactly 30 years ago today, May 2nd.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:53 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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Name This Mystery Ship XVI

Sometimes the Mystery Ship I trot out for these contests are found long in advance, carefully stored away until the time comes to spring them on my unsuspecting readers.  Other times, it's serendipitous.  They fall in my lap completely by accident as I'm doing something else altogether.

FDM, CXT, you two have been moved to to "master-level," so you can't play on this one.  Everybody else, take your best shot!  The winner gets a post on a topic of their choice... but no cheating.  If you cheat, you make little duckies cry, and big duckies angry.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:47 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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